Enhancing women’s participation in political leadership through elections observation, monitoring and training
18 July 2018
Africa University’s College of Peace, Leadership and Governance in partnership with United Nations Women (UN Women) hosted a workshop that will run from the 18th to the 20th of July 2018 that is designed to train, educate and empower Zimbabwean women to participate in the observation process and monitoring of Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections scheduled for the 31st of July 2018. Africa University Registrar Mr. Herbert Njonga who opened the workshop said that the lack of participation of women from the electoral process in Africa was a grievous error and one that needed to be remedied with the joint training being offered by AU and UN Women being a step in the right direction for the country and one that will ripple throughout Africa.
In many African countries, women make up a significant proportion of the population however, there is massive underrepresentation of women in decision- making positions that are by and large dominated by men. There are a number of factors that lead to this imbalance that range from conflict, intimidation, lack of political will, gender stereotypes of women in politics and access to financial resources that have hindered efforts toward gender parity in politics. Currently, Rwanda is leading the way on the continent with a record 61.3 percent of women making up parliament followed by Senegal, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Angola. The world average sits at 15.1 percent.
The delegates who came from Peace Committees that were constituted by UN Women in various parts of Zimbabwe in an effort to bring women at community level into the broader conversation on elections in Zimbabwe and Africa were in attendance hailing from Tsvingwe, Gwanda, Masvingo, Bindura and Mutoko.
The objectives of the training workshop were to educate the participants on the electoral process, gain their perspectives and experiences on how elections have affected them and their communities and equip them with skills that will enable them to identify the problems facing women during the election process, mediate and become a part of the solution to electoral violence against women.
UN Women’s work in this regard in Zimbabwe began in 2012 with an initial focus on gender peace and security programmes that were intended to strengthen community responses to gender issues and threats with the aid of the establishment of Peace Committees that comprise groups of women from various communities united by their cause for peace- building and unity. That mandate has now extended to election observation and monitoring giving the women a more hands- on role as after further training , the women will become fully accredited election observers bringing a different and highly important perspective to the observation process – elections through the eyes of women.
The discussion around the need for the inclusion of women in the political arena has been a long one dating back to as far as the 1990’s and supported by international conferences such as the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in 1995, which called for at least 30 per cent representation by women in national governments and more recently with Agenda 2063 that as its name implies, puts women and youth on the world Agenda and identifies both as drivers for sustained development and economic emancipation. That percentage has since grown with Zimbabwean female parliamentarians together with other civic groups fully embracing the United Nations initiative , “ Planet 50 50 by 2030”, with a call for 50/50 representation of both genders in government launched in the country in March 2018. Presently Zimbabwe’s parliament has 35 percent female representation.
UN Women works on measures supporting women’s political participation across the electoral cycle, including coordinated efforts with UN system partners. Proven interventions that ensure the inclusion of women in decision making at the national level are advocated through UN Women such as the implementation of temporary special measures or quotas, advocating for and providing evidence to inform national electoral regulations and ensuring that women have fair opportunities to campaign and register to vote, and are protected from election-related violence. (www.unwomen.org)
Africa University with a female student population ratio of 54 percent and a diverse community represented by over 31 African countries, places a priority on the education and emancipation of women within Africa. Student learning touches on topical issues revolving around peace-building, security and leadership with the view of creating not just leaders for Africa but leaders who are women who direct policy and legislation that improves the lives of all Africans.